Pregnancy and the Benefits of Pilates



Kara Nies, Pilates Instructor, H2L Studio

There is nothing that alters a woman’s body like pregnancy and childbirth. Muscles change and stretch, aches and pains arise and it can be difficult to maintain a previously vigorous workout routine. That’s where Pilates comes in. Local experts say the best thing an expectant or new mother can do to stay fit and sane—and prepare for labor—is check out a Pilates class.

Kara Nies, H2L Studio

When Kara Nies was pregnant with her son, she had no intention of giving up the Pilates practice she loves. “Pilates for me has always been my escape, in addition to my workout,” she says. “Through my pregnancy, it kept me calm, relaxed and sane, but also as physically fit as I could be.”

Nies, a PMA-certified Pilates instructor at H2L Studio, says she focused on the breath work and core strengthening aspects of Pilates as she got closer to giving birth. “It’s so much about the breath and core strength, and those things really helped me through delivery,” she says. “The work we do in Pilates on the muscles of the pelvic floor meant I had a quick and easy delivery. It’s also all about long, lean muscles, so it helped me to have a quick recovery, as well.”

Postnatal Pilates is just as important and beneficial, says Nies, as a prenatal practice. She does recommend easing back into things. Most doctors recommend women that deliver their children naturally wait six weeks before resuming a workout regimen. “I got right back into it at six weeks, but I definitely noticed some limitations right away,” says Nies. “There were definitely some struggles. You think your muscles will just bounce back, but they’ve just been stretched across nine months. Sometimes muscles are even torn, and more gentle rehabilitation is necessary. It takes some, but those muscles do find their way back.”

The best way for a prenatal or postnatal Pilates beginner to get into the swing of things, Nies recommends, is to take a few private lessons to learn the basics. “I give a lot of private lessons to pregnant women and women who are post-delivery,” she says. “At first, I recommend taking a few private lessons to learn where your limitations are and learn modifications to make it safe and healthy for you.”

While modifications to some aspects of a typical Pilates class may be necessary, Nies advises that every woman—pregnant or not—can benefit from this workout. “Anybody—absolutely anybody—can take a Pilates class,” she says. “It’s very low-impact, and a lot of it is done on your back. When people have major surgery, a lot of the rehab they do is Pilates-based.”

Allison Zang, Absolute Pilates

At Absolute Pilates locations all over Central Pennsylvania, owner and PMA-Certified Instructor Allison Zang and her team of instructors tailor classes specifically to expectant moms and those recovering from labor and delivery. In her prenatal Pilates classes, she helps clients prepare for the rigors of labor and delivery while strengthening other muscles strained by pregnancy.

Zang’s prenatal clients work on controlled breathing and building the lower abdominal muscles. To relieve common leg and back aches, there is a focus on strengthening and stretching hamstrings and back muscles, and opening the chest and shoulders. In her postnatal classes, the overall benefits of Pilates are targeted to the needs of a new mom as she grows accustomed to a body that’s been altered over nine months.

“The initial focus when a client comes back to us after having a baby is checking on their core and working to help them regain connection with muscles,” says Zang. “We’re figuring out how to re-communicate with body parts you lost the ability to communicate with because they were stretched and extended, and possibly torn.”

Zang advises that it’s important to focus on posture, because new moms find themselves spending long periods of time bent or hunched over. “If you’re nursing, your breasts are heavier, and that causes your shoulders to roll forward,” she notes. “When you find a comfortable position to nurse a baby in, you tend to be rounding forward. You’re bending over a million times a day to play, bathe, feed and change your baby. You’re doing this whole new job of bending, leaning over and picking up.”

Zang says Pilates is the best and safest workout most moms can do, through their pregnancy and beyond. “With a well-trained instructor, it’s a safe and effective way to keep you moving while you’re pregnant, even once you feel like you can’t or jump anymore,” she says. “The greater focus of Pilates is helping people lengthen and strengthen their muscles, move better and feel better.”

H2L Studio also offers classes in yoga, barre and cycling at 2151 Fisher Rd., Ste. 103, in Mechanicsburg. For more information, call 717-697-4425, or visit h2lstudio.com.

Absolute Pilates has locations in Mechanicsburg, Lemoyne, Enola and Harrisburg. For more information, call 717-585-2592 or visit AbsolutePilates.com.

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